Sam* had rearranged her appointment with me a couple of times because of feeling ill, and when she did come to see me she still looked unwell. “I don’t sleep very well and I’m tired all the time” she told me “and I can’t afford to look unwell as I sell health and beauty products, and my tiredness is affecting my work”.
It wasn’t very long into the appointment when we started to discuss the possible reasons for Sam’s poor sleep. For her, as for so many people, stress was at the bottom of it – stress about her business, and the pressure to recruit new people, get more clients, and to network.
Where Sam was different, but not unique, was in how she used drink to deal with her stress. When I talked to her about the amount that she drank she became quite defensive, saying “I’m not an alcoholic – I’ve got a job, I’m not sat on a bench in town drunk”. Sam was right, she wasn’t an alcoholic, and if she had been I’d have got her to talk to her GP instead. Where she was misled though was in thinking that only alcoholics can have a problem with drink.
Sam’s drinking was the major cause of her disturbed and poor quality sleep, and her tiredness and fatigue were causing her the problems at work. As a result she was working longer and longer hours, becoming more and more stressed and then drinking to help her relax – and perpetuating her tiredness and fatigue and all the problems that went with them.
Like most people Sam was reluctant to give up something that she thought was working for her but I wasn’t suggesting that she give up drinking completely, just get back her control over it. I also told her that I couldn’t help her with tiredness if she carried on as she was.
It’s not been easy for Sam, and at the end of a hard day or week the temptation is still there, but she’s learning to be in charge of the amount she drinks, and seeing the benefits of feeling less tired and clearer headed during the day has made the temptations easier to deal with.
*Sam’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story.